(Here’s the fifth and final post on the 2007 IA Summit. You can find the first one that introduces the series and describes the first theme ‘tangible’ here, the second one on ‘social’ here, the third one on ‘web of data’ here and the fourth one on ‘strategy’ here.)
It might have been the past RIA hype (which according to Jared Spool has nothing to do with web 2.0) but for whatever reason, IAs are moving into interface territory. They’re broadening their scope to look at how their architectures are presented and made usable by users. The interesting part for me is to see how a discipline that has come from taxonomies, thesauri and other abstract information structures approaches the design of user facing shells for those structures. Are their designs dramatically different from those created by interface designers coming from a more visual domain concerned with surface? I would say: at least a little…
I particularly enjoyed Stephen Anderson’s presentation on adaptive interfaces. He gave many examples of interfaces that would change according to user behaviour, becoming more elaborate and explanatory or very minimal and succinct. His main point was to start with a generic interface that would be usable by the majority of users, and then come up with ways to adapt it to different specific behaviours. The way in which those adaptations were determined and documented as rules reminded me a lot of game design.
Margaret Hanley gave a solid talk on the “unsexy side of IA”, namely the design of administration interfaces. This typically involves coming up with a lot of screens with many form fields and controls. The interfaces she created allowed people to edit data that would normally not be accessible through a CMS but needed editing nonetheless (product details for a web shop, for instance). Users are accustomed to thinking in terms of editing pages, not editing data. The trickiest bit is to find ways to communicate how changes made to the data would propagate through a site and be shown in different places. There were some interesting ideas from the audience on this, but no definite solution was found.